Talk to any group of people, and you will find there are conflicting views on whether stage hypnotism is real or not.
Everybody seems to have a view, and this has been the case since the birth of hypnotism.
In today’s magic posting, we will take a look at this topic.
Do magicians really hypnotize people? Yes, magicians hypnotize people but they carefully select an audience member who is suitable for hypnosis.
Table of Contents
Hypnotism was originally called Mesmerism (Franze Anton Mesmer 1700s), and performers would demonstrate this technique on stage in acts that varied very little from the first stage hypnotists.
The difference was that Mesmerists used pseudoscience to confuse what was actually going on.
Early practitioners were faced with the church’s opposition, and a famous sermon was given at St Jude’s Church Liverpool, where Hugh M’Neale preached a sermon against mesmerism.
From the era of vaudeville through to the 1960s, Stage Hypnotism was very popular but was only seen as an extension of a magic act.
It was therefore expected that the act would contain showmanship.
The favorite trick of suspending a woman between a couple of chairs usually was preceded with some fake hypnotism.
The trick had nothing to do with hypnotism but was just incorporated into the act as showmanship.
Recently, that has changed, and some magicians do practice genuine hypnotism as part of their show.
The Stage Magician and Hypnosis
First off, it is important to realize that no stage magician ever picks out random people from the audience and hypnotizes them.
It might appear that way, but it is simply not true.
Bringing a random volunteer onto the stage, clapping his hand, or clicking his fingers will not induce a hypnotic state.
Professional hypnotists will each have their own technique to ensure the “volunteers” on stage are easy to hypnotize.
It could be that that they carry out a test on the audience, which reveals who is suggestible.
It could be by telling the audience to clasp their hands with fingers interlocked and then telling them that they cannot unclasp their hands.
This will pick out the suggestible ones who claim they cannot.
These individuals end up as “volunteers” later.
Others will hypnotize the volunteers before they appear on stage, inserting a trigger word that puts them back into a hypnotic state.
These people are hypnotized traditionally.
So to summarize, the volunteers have already been hypnotized using traditional methods or are individuals who are extremely suggestible and will “play along” with the hypnotist.
There is no time for hypnosis performed by hypnotherapists during an act, which relies on a slow process of gradual relaxation.
Hence, stage hypnotists use a variety of ways to hypnotize quickly.
Either by hypnotizing the volunteer earlier or by several techniques that individual hypnotists have developed to create the illusion.
Derren Brown, the British Illusionist, for example, will use a technique called “Pattern Interrupt.”
This is a psychologically-based technique that was originally developed by David Hellman.
The Role of Deception
The stage hypnotist uses deception in his act.
This creates a belief that the stage hypnotist can control minds and force people to do things.
This is not true.
“A hypnotist can never make the subject do something that they would never normally do.”
Stage hypnosis is a form of manipulation that uses psychological techniques to induce the volunteers to perform.
These might include the following.
- peer pressure,
- social compliance,
- participant selection,
- ordinary suggestibility
Experts in Stage Hyonotizm describe three fundamental methods.
The volunteer is subject to huge social pressure.
They know they are supposed to be hypnotized, and they have an audience watching them expecting them to be hypnotized.
Sometimes it’s easier to go along with it.
With a bit of extra manipulation from the hypnotist.
The hypnotist carries out preliminary tests on the whole audience.
From this, he can ascertain which audience members are the most suggestible.
Alternatively, the hypnotist asks for volunteers to automatically attract the most extrovert people in the audience who are likely to play along for a laugh and place themselves at the center of attention.
Like Mind Readers, these magicians/hypnotists are masters at using psychological techniques, sleight of hand, and other learned techniques.
They also use off microphone whispers to direct volunteers on occasions.
It is also not unknown for hypnotists to employ a stooge.
They only need the one because the real volunteers will be encouraged to ape the stooge’s actions.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Nobody really knows exactly why hypnosis (the real type used in hypnotherapy) works.
Research is still going on the establish which part of the brain is triggered by the technique.
What we can say, however, is that it is a gradual relaxation which drops individuals into a state where they receive suggestions.
Implanting ideas into the head of the subject, just as “Mind Readers” do when they implant ideas without the volunteer realizing.
It is a slow process and very different from what you see in a stage act.
Hypnotherapy is said to have a success rate of between 70 and 96% in correcting issues such as stopping smoking, losing weight, becoming more confident, etc.
This is a high success rate, and it would suggest that a hypnotherapist can successfully implant any idea into the subject.
This is not true. If the subject does not want to follow the idea implanted, they will not.
For example, a hypnotist could not tell a subject to murder someone.
The brain would not follow that instruction. It only follows instructions that are in tune with what the subject really wants deep down.
Is Hypnosis Mind Control?
No, hypnosis is not mind-control.
In hypnosis, the hypnotist is simply implanting positive ideas that comply with what the subject really wants.
The subject is in control and will decide whether it wants to carry out the suggestion or not.
Since the subject is ultimately always in control, even if it appears on stage shows that he is not.
I suppose we really should make a clear distinction between Stage Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, just as we do between Magic and Magik.
If you’re interested in learning hypnosis, there is a great Mentalism Online Course that you can take.
This course is focused on Mentalism and Mindreading in general and Hypnosis is a big part of this course.
It will teach you Mentalism and Hypnosis step by step, even if you’re a beginner so I recommend you to check it out.
Hypnosis is an interesting topic to discover.
If you ever have seen any performance where a hypnotist hypnotizes members of an audience, you for sure wondered if this is real.
I explained to you the basics of how hypnosis works and how experienced mentalists can influence the audience.